Island botanic garden seeks new owner
15 November 2011
Ventnor Botanic Garden on the Isle of Wight is searching for a new owner after the local council decided to give it up and hand it to an independent organisation by next April.
The council has now invited expressions of interest in taking over the 11.7 hectare (29 acre) garden from community groups or what it calls 'organisations better placed than we are' to take on its day-to-day management.
'Because of the financial pressures we face, the council is no longer able to run Ventnor Botanic Garden to its full potential,' said Ian Anderson, of the Isle of Wight Council. 'We look forward to working with a preferred bidder to help ensure an exciting new future for the garden.'
The council has considered approaching larger organisations such as the RHS and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to take on the site, and has held exploratory talks with the National Trust but without success. It now says there is no choice than to find another owner for the gardens. However, it says it would not seek to sell the Garden at a profit, and recognises that to sell the garden at all will be 'very unpopular' with the public.
There are significant conditions on any new ownership of the gardens; under the terms of its Grade II registration any new owner would have to keep it accessible to the public, and any change of ownership would also need the permission of the Big Lottery Fund which contributed a £2.6m grant to the building of the new visitor centre in May 2000.
Ventnor Botanic Garden holds one of the country's finest collections of half-hardy southern-hemisphere plants, many of them growing outside due to the Island's microclimate and therefore of major scientific interest both botanically and as a focal point for studying climate change. However, its future has been in the balance since the council voted to withdraw its annual £300,000 funding last December during a round of deep budget cuts.